Jim Siergey: The Drip Diaries

October 21st, 2016

I like my shower.

It’s nothing fancy, just an old-fashioned shower head protruding from the wall, a good foot above my seventy two inch height, and a tap where one can adjust the temp before pulling up the plunger attachment to release the spray. It is perfect.

I cannot say the same about other showers I have had the misfortune to use in motel and hotel rooms as well as the homes of out of town friends whom I am visiting.

How do I begin my kvetching? (Can I use that term if I’m not Jewish?)

Oftimes, the problem lies with the position of the shower head. Some are positioned perfectly for someone who is not above the height of five feet. In those cases, if I wish to wash my face and hair, I have to assume a Quasimodo pose (“She gave me waw-ter.”) or just get down on my knees, praise the lord and shout “Hallelujah” like a turkey in the rain while washing the memory of the experience out of my hair a la Mitzi Gaynor.

Another drawback is the type of shower head. Some are of the sunflower design, which are akin to Chinese water torture. (I apologize for the politically incorrect terminology. Is Cheney water torture more acceptable?) On the opposite end of the spectrum, I was once in a shower where the water came rushing out like a series of tiny needles. That was one of the quickest showers I ever took.


There’s nothing like a shower…


Then there are those shower set ups that one needs a user manual and a slide rule to figure out. Some have various hoses with shower heads and different types of knobs and things to press or pull out. I feel like I have stepped naked into a facsimile of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory.

The fact that I generally don’t wear my specs when I bathe makes it even more difficult to figure out with which bell or whistle I should be dealing. The same goes for shampoo. I can’t read the labels on the assortment of bottles found in a strange shower. At a friend’s house once, I washed my hair with what turned out to be body moisturizer.

I know what you’re thinking. When not in the comfort of my home, why don’t I forego my morning shower? I have tried but I simply cannot function without one. I’m even more useless than normal.

In fact, the absence of a morning shower is my main concern regarding the aspect of homelessness.

Ah, such a pampered life I lead. Yet, I can always find something to gripe about. To paraphrase an old blues song, if it wasn’t for hot air, I’d have no air at all…but I’d better have hot water!


Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Stupid Stuff

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No Blaise: Coffee Cup Glut

October 19th, 2016

During a recent trip to Target, Anika and I decided that we needed coffee tumblers. So, we proceeded to stand in the coffee tumbler aisle pantomiming drinking coffee out of a variety of coffee tumblers.

I went in knowing I wanted a Contigo brand tumbler, because I’d “borrowed” Katie and Ryan’s enough to know that Contigo was my brand. But, of course, I still had created plenty of other obstacles for myself in deciding on the perfect one.

I found one I loved, lookswise, and as soon as I picked it up it broke. So, that one can stand in place for my love life.

I found one I loved, lookswise, and upon further investigation it was too small for the amount of caffeine I need on a daily basis. So, that one can stand for my love life, too.

I found one that I loved size-wise, but it wasn’t in the color I loved. So, that one can stand for whenever I find clothes I actually like.

Finally, I found one that I loved both size and colorwise, but it happened to be the exact same one Katie has. I bought it anyway, so my new tumbler can stand for my social life.

The cherry on top is that Anika and I bought the same tumbler in different colors, and hers happened to be the same one as Ryan has. So, now you have a really good idea of how social we are outside of the house.

Anika and I get home, and are immediately too excited about our Contigos and pour whatever beverage we decide to drink into it. Anika pours water, I make a matcha drink and pour it into mine.

I should now mention that we have enough cups and coffee mugs for at least 20 people.

We like new things.

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Grabowski: Grandma

October 18th, 2016

The earliest memory I have of my grandmother is of her giving my brother and me an endless stream of Christmas presents.

Cheap battery-powered hand-held fans, mini felt-covered teddy bears for the top of a wooden pencil eraser, and other trinkets she had bought at the St. Mary Star of the Sea craft fair.

All the while burning through several rolls of 35 mm film, asking us to carefully peel the tape and fold up the wrapping paper so she could reuse it.

She sometimes took us to the movies, and twice I recall got into an argument with the manager demanding for a refund because once she didn’t like the movie, and a second time because she thought the movie was inappropriate for kids our age.

When I moved away for college, I would call her every couple weeks.

She was a night owl, so I learned to try her after 11 PM after she had finished watching the Oprah rebroadcast, having slept through the original morning airing.

She did most and the talking and usually went into half-hour-long stories that I had already heard many times, such as:

Lying about her age to get a job at Swift and Company in the Stockyards while she went to Lindblom High School during the day, riding a streetcar to work the night shift and giving the earnings to her mother to pay for food for their family of seven.

How she later met her future husband in the Stockyards where he worked as a USDA inspector and how he would ask her out every day and she kept declining but one day finally gave in; that he went off to fight in WWII, the details of their letters back and forth, and how he surprised her with a proposal and an engagement ring in one letter, saying he couldn’t wait to get home to marry her.

On every call she would make sure to tell me to stay away from “The Dope” and reminded me that I should go to church every Sunday because God was important and I might meet a nice Polish girl there.

She loved the independence of being able to drive herself around. If she locked her keys in the car, she would call her alderman’s office and they would “send a nice man out right away” to jimmy her back in.

One year in her 80s she went to renew her driver’s license. After the road test, the DMV agent told her that she had failed and couldn’t drive anymore because (i) she didn’t know how to honk her horn and (ii) she rolled through a stop sign.

“What??!! No one else ever stops at those!” she protested.

When she lost her license, I took turns with other family driving her on errands to the bank, shopping at crowded Polish delis like Bobak’s and now-defunct Gil-Mart, and going out to lunch at Mabenka, The Riverside and New Warsaw on 63rd Street.

She was always going out of her way to introduce me to Polish girls in the hopes that we would date and marry.

Like the time she gave me the business card of her favorite bank teller, Anna, who I finally called after months of my grandma’s pestering. Or at New Warsaw when I was coming back to the table with a plate of pierogi from the buffet, I caught my grandma asking the Polish waitress for her phone number and told her in front of me “so my handsome grandson can take you out.”

One night when I took my grandma to a movie, she bought us both senior citizen discounted tickets. And then she convinced me to sneak into a second movie after we finished the first, and I didn’t drop her off until after 1 AM.

She was active in bowling leagues well into her 70s, used to support some random charities like the Southwest North Dakota American Indian Children’s Education Fund (or something like that), was proud of her yard and flower garden and of the Polish Pope, and once interrupted a stranger peacefully eating fried chicken at ChicagoFest to ask if she could have a taste before deciding if she should get her own plate.

She was always full of life and vocal about her views.

The last time I saw her alive, she was hooked up to feeding and breathing tubes in the nursing home and she was incapacitated.

As I knelt bedside holding her hand, I told her loudly that our wedding was the next weekend out of town, that I wished that she could be there for it, and that I loved her.

She squeezed my hand slightly in acknowledgement.

The morning after our wedding, my mother broke the news that she had passed away the day before.

I never recorded any of my grandmother’s stories, and I wish I had a detailed account in her own words of her life highlights.

That is one of the reasons I started writing, so I could document my memories for my children before I forget or it is too late.

Editor’s Note: Grabowski’s last post for The Third City was Stand Up Man


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Jim Siergey: Stupid Stuff

October 16th, 2016

I was listening to some Zevon and his masterful work “Werewolves in London” played. When the song came to the closing line where Warren says “I saw a werewolf drinking a Pina Colada at Trader Vic’s, his hair was perfect”, I flashed onto a record review I read many years ago.

It was a review of Zevon’s album, which came out sometime in the 1980s and to that final line in that particular song the reviewer, in a rather persnickety manner, jumped on the “his hair was perfect” verse and opined that “Unfortunately, Warren has mixed up werewolves with vampires.”

I suppose the reviewer was thinking of vampires with their slicked back hair and their widow’s peaks et al. and forgetting that a werewolf was covered with hair, fer chrissake. Warren had not mixed up anything. What this reviewer had written was stupid and forgettable YET every time I hear that song and that line, that friggin’ stupid comment pops into my head.

And I suppose it always will.

Why does stupid stuff stick in our heads more so than the non-stupid stuff? I use the word ‘our’ as I hope I am not the only one with stupid stuff stuck in his head.


The great Mr. Zevon…


High school was a blur for me, at least as far as the classes go, since I was predominantly a day-dreaming goof-off but during a brief moment of attentiveness I heard my English teacher say something that despite its stupidity has stuck with me, like gum on the bottom of my shoe, all these years.

The teacher, Miss Snell, if I remember correctly, stated that “Titles are unimportant and there is no such thing as symbolism.” Why, oh why, would something like that stick in my head but not more pertinent stuff like irregular verbs and dangling participles as well as ratios, state capitals and the central nervous system of frogs?

Kudzu-like, stupid stuff covers the interior of my brain, even with regards to bizarre forms of birth control.

This particular prenatal nugget has found a comfortable place in my subconscious to reside with no plans of ever moving out. When having unprotected sex and not desiring pregnancy to occur, the female partner, upon completion of the act, should immediately stand up, climb upon a chair, and jump off. I suppose the more leaps, the better.

I wonder how many girls got both pregnant and flat feet?

Commercial jingles, television theme songs, dialogue from cartoons, typos, misheard song lyrics—all these trivial bits of nonsense have inured themselves in our subconsciousnesses, leaving little room for such items as actual facts or pertinent knowledge.

I’m speaking for myself, of course, but perhaps you suffer as well?

Even Frank Sinatra, “The Chairman of the Board”, confessed that he had his problems with a lack of good sense or judgement as he crooned the tune with the refrain “…by saying something stupid like I love you”, which, in truth, is rarely a stupid thing to say.


Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Sobriquets





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Jim Siergey: Sobriquets

October 11th, 2016

In the early 1970s my friend, Tim, lived in the apartment across the hall from me and was attending Northeastern University. He had signed up for a “Fiction Workshop” class and asked if I’d be interested in taking it as well.

So I did. I sat in on the class and tried my hand at writing fiction. We would type out our pieces (on typewriters) and then run off copies on a mimeograph machine so all attendees in class would have a copy as we read them aloud for critiquing purposes.

At some point during the semester, the instructor referred to us as “Jim and Tim the Dancing Twins”. The two of us took this surprising sobriquet as a positive nod to our writing prowess as we both not-so-humbly felt that we were the best writers in the class.

I don’t know why ‘dancing’ was thrown in there as Tim and I had never danced together (at least, not in class) plus neither of us were twins. But, it was fine with me as I had gone through my life without a nickname (as I wrote about extensively in an early Third City missive).

Let us now fast forward to a few weeks ago.


A couple of greats–Tom & Jerry…


My friend Chris and I had just left the Jenny Lewis concert that we had attended at the Chicago Theater (which I also wrote about extensively in a recent Third City missive— I’m a pretty extensive fellow) and were heading south on State Street to where the car was parked.

As we ambulated along with a small crowd of people I noticed a guy near the corner sitting on a fire plug. He had that street person look about him but he was clad resplendently in matching short sleeve shirt and shorts that were decorated in a faded orange and yellow plaid. He noticed me noticing him and said something.

Chris and I were in conversation so I paid him no mind and turned my attention to the crosswalk ahead. The light changed to red and traffic began moving so we waited. As we waited, I heard the fire plug feller bellow “Hey! Tom and Jerry!”

After all these years, another sobriquet.

My initial reaction was to turn to Chris and ask “Does he think we’re Simon and Garfunkel?” (Ed. Note: Simon and Garfunkel began their performing career as Tom and Jerry). The light changed and we walked on.

Just like “The Dancing Twins” where neither Tim nor I were dancers or twins, “Tom and Jerry” did not fit Chris and I. Tom and Jerry are best known as the cat and mouse team from many a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. They were also an animated duo even earlier than that in black and white cartoons from the Van Beuren Studios. One guy was tall and thin whilst the other was short—just like Simon and Garfunkel.

Chris and I are both about the same height.

I always seem to be part of a duo. My creative cartooning partner for many years was named Tom but my most important partnership is with my wife. The sobriquet we are known by, via my immigrant grandmother’s inability to spell our names correctly, is Jam & Candy.

Jim & Tim, Jim & Tom, Tom & Jerry, Jam & Candy—not bad for a guy without a nickname.


Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was The Sounds of Fun…






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Jim Siergey: The Sounds Of Fun

October 3rd, 2016

One Friday night the wife and I decided to go out to dinner. We had read about this new place called Band of Bohemia. The place is described thusly: “Funky-chic brewpub infusing culinary flavors into house beers & pairing them with global plates”.

Neither of us are big beer drinkers but we also don’t spurn the brew, particularly if it is tasty. Plus, it sounded kinda interesting and being the hip metropolitans that we are, we decided to give the place a whirl.

The joint was lodged in an old warehouse on Ravenswood Avenue right next to the train tracks. We walked in to a rather swanky looking place. Some music from the 1930s was playing and I felt like I should be clad in a tuxedo, complete with white scarf, gloves and a top hat.

The spaghetti-strapped dress-wearing girls stationed up front asked if we had reservations. We did not. They hmmed around a bit, looking at a ledger, flipping back and forth through the pages before finally informing us that the sole table set aside for non-reservationed diners was filled and the wait would be about an hour.

“Or less!” she perkily added.


Jim was drinking up…


We decided to not refer to the Band of Bohemia website that stated walk-ins were welcome at all times. Apparently, it was a typo that should have read ‘walk-in’. We walked out.

Now we had a taste for beer so we crossed over to the other side of the tracks to yet another street named Ravenswood and down a block or so to O’Shaughnessy’s, an Irish pub and restaurant that is housed in the building that once housed a longtime neighborhood ice cream shoppe, “The Zephyr”.

You know you’re getting old when you refer to places that used to be where something else now is.

We were seated right away and had an enjoyable dinner, bangers and mash for me and Irish curry for her, washed down with an Octoberfest beer and a pumpkin ale, respectively. (For those of you who are keeping score at home)

Behind us on the other side of the room was a table full of people, eight or ten of ‘em. They were eating and drinking which, of course, leads to clinking of glasses, loud talking, occasional shouting as well as guffaws, yelps and gales of loud laughter.

They weren’t being obnoxious or anything. They were just a bunch of people out having a good time. After one of the outbursts of throaty laughter, I leaned across the table and said to my wife, that paragon of virtue, that pillar of strength, that “saint”, as many people have called her when discovering that she is married to me, the following words.

“I’ve always disliked the sound of people having fun.”

She just smiled and knowingly nodded.


Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was The Monarch Whisperer





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Jim Siergey: The Monarch Whisperer

September 28th, 2016

I was out in the backyard cavorting, if one can accept sitting as cavorting, with the monarchs when I began to think about something. This led me to thinking about myself thinking about something and then it happened.

I forgot what I was thinking about.

This process of over-thinking happens to me quite often. I’m used to it. The story of my life.  But sometimes I don’t think so hard and that’s when something happens.

That’s when an idea forms or, sometimes, even an understanding of something. Y’see, my problem is that when I do think, I think a little too much. Over the limit. Past my curfew. Beyond Bayonne. (I just made that last one up. Dunno if it means anything but it has a nice ring to it. Bayonne’s a burg in Jersey, ain’t it?)

In fact, if I was ever to have a tombstone, a fitting epitaph for me would be: “Too much thinking, not enough thought”.

Pretty classy, eh? It’s almost like a Bob Dylan lyric.

Despite what had happened, I came inside and sat down here expecting to write something but nothing comes to mind. Let’s see now, have I done anything interesting of late? Hmmmm.

Oh, I drove down to Wicker Park!


Monarch Man–by Jim Siergey…


I parked on the corner of Wabansia and Wolcott. It was quite an alliterative experience. I’m an admirer of musical sounding street names. I had long thought that it would be delightful to live on the corner of Hoyne and LeMoyne.

The mere thought of it gives me goose pimples.

Street names can make good aliases too. The rule is the chosen streets have to intersect or follow in succession. A friend of mine conjured up the brilliant ‘Barry Fletcher Belmont’. My wife claimed her Chicago Street Alter Ego moniker as ‘Cornelia Addison’ whilst mine is ‘Roscoe Buckingham’, the weakest of the three IMO.

So, there’s that.

Let’s see now…lately, I’ve been thinking at times of doing an illustration based on Flann O’Brien’s novel “The Third Policeman”, which I recently read twice in succession. I’d never done that before. There are books that I have read a second time, a third time or Beyond Bayonne (see how I worked that in there? I’m pushing for Bartlett’s) but never right after reading it for the first time.

This one I felt deserved it. Or needed it. I know I needed it. And I enjoyed it.

Anyway, I have a picture in mind of how I’d like the drawing to look although how it will actually end up is anybody’s guess. But I have the basic layout in mind.The main deterrent (there are several, listlessness being the main one) is that I need to draw a bicycle and I don’t like to draw bicycles. But there’s no getting around it, a bicycle has to be in it.

So, there it is, which it isn’t, and here I am, where I is.

Y’know, maybe I’ve got things backwards. After all, I was a breech birth. Maybe my problem, if it indeed is a problem, isn’t that I think too much but that I don’t think enough. My thoughts do tend to be spasmodic and flit about like a butterfly.

Speaking of which, I think I’ll go back out so I can wave good bye to the monarchs as they flit off to Mexico. My thoughts are with them.


Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was A Thousand Voices


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